Google+ Authentic Parenting: Doing It On Purpose - Dealing With Defiance

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Doing It On Purpose - Dealing With Defiance

Sometimes it seems like your children do things specifically because you tell them not to. What's going on here?

Explicitly defiant behavior is often a result of one of three things:

  • misunderstanding
  • testing of boundaries
  • seeking of attention


This is the first and most important reason why children do the things we distinctly tell them not to. They just don't understand us the way we'd like them to. When we tell them "Don't touch the trashcan, it's full of germs", all they hear is "trashcan" and "germs" and the ardor in our voice. If "trashcan" is something mommy gets her panties in a knot for, it must be something worth investigating, right? And let's try to find out what and where these germs are. All those little words we interlace our language with is lost to them.
That's why it is often repeated to use "no" as little as possible. Not because children should never hear no, but because all those little no's throughout the day lose their effect and children just don't hear them anymore, they become background noise.

Testing boundaries

Any healthy child will do some boundary testing. That doesn't make him or her defiant, just a good scientist. To the child, it isn't naturally so that what was not allowed yesterday will still not be allowed today. Or in the trashcan scenario, the child might just be wondering if the way he touches the trashcan is wrong.
For example, it might be possible we tell our child not to have that ice cream (they just had three, or we're going to eat at grandma's in two minutes and she'll be upset if he doesn't eat), the child doesn't know or understand our motives for saying 'no' to this exact ice cream, whereas he knows he has had ice creams before. From this point of view it's only natural that they will try and try again, as a means to understand the seemingly illogical response.


Any attention is attention to a small child. Getting mommy's vivid attention by touching the trashcan is quite fun. Mommy seems really excited. Let's do this some more.
That doesn't mean that you're not attentive to your child, it just means that he likes to solicit an emotion from you. If you think the behavior is seated in a search for excitement and attention, try to find other ways to fill that need. A simple game of peekaboo, hide and seek or tickles might be just as fun for your child.

It is important to never take the so-called defiant behavior personal. I prefer to call it investigative behavior, which makes it lose it's negative and aggressive side. Children aren't out to torment you. They just want to learn and interact with the world and everyone in it. They do'nt go about calculating how you will react to what they do.

Children's logic sometimes tarts our adult logic. They might very well continue something that displeases us to make it go away - or specifically to make us feel if they feel we've been emotionally absent.

Image source: Benedict Francis
This post was added to the Tuesday Baby LinkUp



  1. Another great post! Definitely need this reminder with a rambunctious 2 year old boy on my hands. :)

    Jennifer @ Little Silly Goose

  2. Wonderful! What great advice, thank you for sharing this. I have a very busy two year old son, and a reminder of these points was just what I needed :)

    Thanks for linking up with the <a href="”>Tuesday Baby Link-Up</a>! :) Please come back on Tuesday to see if you were featured :)


    1. I try visiting the link up every week! Thanks for your comment!!


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